We'll start with - REAL LIFE ranting (skip ahead to the Fake Life note if you wish):

As to the sexist, God forbid women be portrayed as anything more than dead hookers on the show, boneheaded "creative decisions" made this week, I'm going to copy/paste the comment I have on my profile:

6/15/2010 - In case you haven't heard, they FIRED AJ Cook and Paget Brewster's role is being majorly reduced, both due to "financial reasons." Yeah, they can pony up 2 million dollars a week to Charlie Sheen with his open domestic violence charges but they can't "afford" to keep on two positive female role models who (combined) must cost them a sliver of the amount of money they're paying Sheen. That's fabulous.

If you check out the cast twitters they are shocked this happened and they clearly had no idea it was coming. And here's the petition (off Joe Mantegna's twitter page) to keep the women on the show. Please everyone, sign!

www. petitiononline cmwomen/

ALSO: ArwenLailath had started another campaign on Facebook related to a cool snail mail approach of sending "manila folders (like the casefiles seen on the show) to CBS. The folders can be decorated with character quotes, pictures, poetry, fiction and we're suggesting filling the folders with MISSING posters of AJ and Paget."

The page is called "Save The Girls, Save the Team, Save the Show." You can read more about her campaign here:

www . facebook group . php?gid = 131665840185172

And for me personally, (here comes a 'me on my soapbox' rant) I'm a city girl from the NE and about as jaded as you can get. And I know that's how a lot of people are on something like this, that we feel like trying to change the minds of TPTB is just spitting in the wind. But an attitude like that is a self fulfilling prophecy for failure. Certainly nothing will happen to change their minds if nobody does anything! They care about dollar signs, and they should know that there are consequences to their actions. If you're truly considering not watching the show or the spin off if these women get screwed over, tell the network! The petition is going to them and there's a place for comments. Somebody will have to read this thing at CBS and give a little summary to the head honchos. You want that summary to be that the majority of the viewers think this is a terrible decision.

And check out Paget and AJ's twitter pages. Tell them how much you appreciate their work. Imagine being in their position, they're being told by these people, we don't value YOU, we don't value your contribution, you don't bring anything to the table and we consider you expendable. That's what they're saying. And think how SHITTY you would feel if that happened to you. Somebody says to you that we care about what the MEN bring to the show, but you're just women, you've got nothing to add to our program. And PB did post that she was really hurt. Garcia's great but she's a techie (which is one type of role model) but that just doesn't fill the same role of Emily and JJ as female agents making it in a man's world. When I was little I would have KILLED to have them on TV. I didn't like ponies or ballet classes or "insert heartthrob of the week." I'd take my little badge and squirt gun and play cops and robbers. My barbies used to dress in my brother's GI Joe cammo outfits and go on undercover missions with Ken. I watched Charlie's Angels, Nancy Drew, Wonder Woman and reruns of The Avengers and Get Smart (99) because that was what I had to choose from to find women tackling the men's world. And then came Remington Steele and Hill Street Blues (I adored Laura and Lucy). And then China Beach came later and (though I'm straight) I still to this day have a crush on McMurphy. So basically there are not a lot of shows I really connected with when I was growing up and now, X number of years later ;) we should be light years ahead, and then I turn around and suddenly I'm seven years old again trying to figure out why there's nobody on TV that I can relate to. And I had accepted that for some reason to put women on these procedurals and give them brains they also had to be really pretty and wear tight and/or low cut tops because obviously even in the 21st century men don't want to hear an intelligent thought from a plain woman or even a hot one unless her tits are on display. I had accepted that. It's the subtle, routine sexism that still exists everywhere in society. But apparently even their tits have now worn out their welcome!

There are so many ways to save money, they could cut one episode from everyone, send people on vacation, Rossi hasanother book tour, there are plausible reasons to leave the office! People in RL do it every day! You don't have to fire people to save money! That's lazy decision making and lazy writing.

And sometimes fan outrage does actually make a difference. Remember that show Jericho was brought back from the brink by fan outrage, and it worked for Friday Night Lights too. And we're not asking for a whole show! Just two great actresses that are doing a fabulous job for them and making the network oodles of money on an incredibly successful procedural! You'd think keeping them on would be a no brainer, but apparently there are a shortage of brains in Hollywood.

Anyway, that's my full on Ranty McRanterson Rant on this particular topic. Moving on.

RL RANTING OVER, BACK TO FAKE LIFE:

I believe after the last Pod Person story I said I was going to walk away. LIES! :)

So here we are again. Again this is a stand alone one shot, but if you haven't read the other two Pod People stories following H/P's traveling adventures earlier in the day, I'd suggest popping over to my profile and digging them out. In order, Invasion of the Pod People and Return of the Pod People and again, this whole day falls between Chapters 49 and 50 of Falling in Love with a Girl. But you can read the Pod People trilogy even if you haven't read the larger story.

We left them mid-afternoon riding on the train. We're picking up with them later that night in the hotel they're now staying at because Em's too sick to travel.


Prompt Set #18

Show: That 70's Show

Title Challenge: Who's Been Sleeping Here?


Night of the Pod People

Hotch paced back and forth around the small hotel room rubbing his ear.

It was after one and he'd just had another graphically shitty nightmare about the explosion in New York. The ringing in his ears was generally nearly non-existent now but it did still come back and hit him at the oddest times.

Like for instance in the middle of a second tier bed and breakfast in Amish country at one something in the morning.

Though he was pretty sure that this time it was a purely psychosomatic reaction. In his mind the car bomb had just gone off, so in his mind his ears were still bleeding.

The fact that they weren't sticky and the room around him was deathly quiet wasn't doing much to persuade his subconscious otherwise.

Finally Hotch realized that pacing wasn't doing much good so most likely some more "stimulating" distraction was in order. Unfortunately he had been forced to return his new favorite DVD when he got off the train, so that left him with just the television.

With a sigh he went over and flopped back down on the bed . . . even if he wanted to there wasn't a chance in hell of him going back to sleep right now anyway. So he might as well take the opportunity to distract himself/rot his brain with something mindless.

Except . . . Hotch flipped the channels higher and higher . . . there's wasn't anything suitably brain rotting on at the moment. All he could find were advertisements for videos showing drunken young women being exploited by sociopaths for financial gain . . . aka Girls Gone Wild . . . and an infomercial on how to make millions selling real estate in a dead market.

And yes those programs were unlikely to assist his chances at getting that Mensa membership, but he was hoping to still have some workable brain cells come morning.

Ordinarily there was something tolerable on twenty-fours a day but after they got off the train . . . again in the middle of Amish country . . . they'd ended up in a rinky dink little B&B with only basic cable.

The definition of "tolerable" viewing was clearly going to be stretched tonight.

Finally . . . after another two spins around the dial . . . he gave up on finding anything else and left the station on Telemundo.

Not that he was fluent in Spanish . . . he could say hello and goodbye and that was about it . . . but his eyes were working just fine. And he could very clearly recognize Chuck Norris on the screen tramping through the jungle. So Hotch figured that given the general quality of film from this particular actor, even if it was in Spanish, nothing would really be "lost in translation" plot wise.

And he was correct in his assessment. However, after a few minutes of staring mindlessly at the television he started to get antsy about Emily alone in the adjacent room. Not only was his dream still bothering him . . . and the vision of Kate bleeding out still haunting him . . . but he hadn't seen Emily in over two hours. So he didn't know if she was still sleeping . . . as she had been when he'd poked his head in there at eleven . . . or if she'd needed to drag herself in to put her head in the bowl again.

As she had been when he'd poked his head in there at ten thirty.

So to put his mind at ease, Hotch put his TV on mute, swung his feet to the carpet and padded quietly over to the doorway.

When he'd gone back to his room a few hours ago he'd made sure to leave her door slightly ajar so he could check on Emily without waking her up.

Which was fortunate now given it was the middle of the night. So he slowly pushed the door back, stepping over the threshold to see her illuminated in the glow of what he knew was her ladybug nightlight.

She was facing him and he could see that she was curled up on her side holding her stomach. Then his gut twisted when he saw that there were tears running down her face.

"Prentiss," he asked softly as he walked closer, "are you all right?" He stooped down next to her bed, feeling her forehead with the back of his hand, "should we go to the hospital?"

Though he knew that twenty-four to forty eight hours was normal for a stomach bug . . . and it had been barely eighteen . . . he still felt very responsible for her right now. She was weak and vulnerable and not as capable of looking after herself as well as she usually could.

So it was his job, to not only look after her personal safety . . . an ongoing vocation moving into year the third . . . but also to look after her physical well being. And really he was just afraid of not taking her symptoms seriously enough and then it turned out later that she was genuinely ill and hadn't received proper treatment.

That's why he'd been checking on her every couple of hours. Though he'd been really hoping that at THIS hour, he'd find her still sound asleep.

Not at all fazed to find Hotch in her room, Emily shook her head, her wet cheek brushing the pillow as she murmured back, "no," her gaze remained fixed on his white t-shirt, "no hospital. I'm just," her voice caught, "really tired and I had dry heaves again and now my stomach is killing me," her lower lip popped out slightly as she looked up at him, "and I just want to go back to sleep and I can't."

Not unsurprisingly her voice cracked at the end. Basically she was just crying because she was over stressed and way over tired. And given that she was curled up in her bed in the semi-dark she wasn't going to feel embarrassed about Hotch finding her in tears.

Now if she was doing this in the field, yes, that would be humiliating. But at one in the morning when she'd been sick all day and he'd just walked into her bedroom?

No.

But then Hotch started gently rubbing her temple with his thumb and a few seconds later, Emily realized that her tears were starting to taper off.

Hotch stared at Emily for a moment, remembering all that she'd done for him out in Ohio, and trying to decide what he could do to help her now.

His fingers had already started caressing her skin before he was consciously aware of it. But he could see it was helping her calm down so he stayed stooped down beside her, rubbing her temple until her tears stopped trickling. Then he whispered, "feel better?" and when she nodded slightly he gave her a little smile as he wiped the remaining moisture off her cheeks with the pads of his thumbs.

"Good," he added softly as his fingers gently cupped her jaw.

Their gazes were locked for a moment before Hotch blinked, making a decision that surprised even him.

But it's what she'd done for him in Ohio so it seemed right that he do it for her now.

When Hotch pulled away and stood up, Emily felt a little dig that he was leaving her alone again. But then she watched as he moved around to the other side of her bed. After he sat down on the mattress he shifted back up on top of the covers until he was leaning against the headboard.

Hotch picked up the remote to turn on Emily's television, immediately punching in the numbers for Chuck Norris in Espanol.

Once the red bearded martial arts champion appeared on screen, he turned the volume down low and sighed. This was the decision he'd made . . . to stay with her until she fell back to sleep.

He just couldn't bear he thought of going back to his room knowing that she might be in here crying herself to sleep all alone. There certainly wasn't anyway that HE'D get back to sleep knowing that was what could be happening in here.

A few seconds after he turned on the TV, Hotch felt Emily's eyes on him and when he looked down, seeing her more clearly now in the bluish glow from the television, he gave her a little smile.

"I can't sleep anyway so I thought I'd keep you company," his eyebrow went up slightly, "is that okay?"

It had been a few years since he'd had a nasty bug but he did know how unpleasant it was to be sick and awake in the middle of the night all by yourself. All of your ailments seem to be exacerbated by the sense that you're utterly alone in the world. So he figured if maybe he sat with her then she'd have some distraction from her physical discomfort and maybe she could get back to sleep.

Emily stared at him for a moment before a faint, still slightly watery, smile touched her lips, "yeah," she reached over and patted his leg, "that's just fine."

General hardass though he may be, sometimes the man was so sweet that she just wanted to squeeze him like he was a giant stress ball. And she had done that on more than one occasion in the past. As she thought about it, Emily realized that hugs . . . when properly administered . . . were actually like giant stress ball relievers. But given that they were both lying down . . . and that horizontal hugging conjured up all kinds of inappropriate imagery . . . she settled for just the leg pat as her means of saying thanks.

Now that there was a warm body in the bed though, she did take the opportunity to snuggle a little closer to it. And she did this for the sole reason that the room was quite cold and the body heat was nice. The air conditioner was blasting, but she didn't want to turn it down because breathing in the cold air was definitely preferable to the hot, stuffy room that she'd walked into that afternoon.

The air had been so stagnant . . . it must have been weeks since they'd rented this room, not unsurprising given that they were in the middle of nowhere . . . that it had given her a headache, and that in turn started making her feel sick again and ten minutes later she'd been ripping the little paper bow off the toilet seat.

Though she blamed the hot gross room for that one, in actuality most everything was making her feel sick. She had decided this probably was food poisoning of some kind because she really couldn't keep anything down. Even the water she had been taking in little sips ended up making her feel icky so by the time they got off the train she was boycotting that as well.

That decision hadn't sat well with Hotch . . . he was afraid that she'd get dehydrated. Emily was afraid of that as well. But she figured that the continuous vomiting was a greater threat to the dehydration than simply avoiding any beverage intake at all, so she'd stuck with her decision.

So, sweetie that he was, after he'd gotten them checked in and her settled up in the room, Hotch had gone back out in the same cab they'd called to the train depot and bought a bottle of Gatorade and some Dixie cups. Then when she'd woken up around eight she'd found that he had made her little makeshift Gatorade ice cubes in the mini-fridge.

It was sadly one of the nicest things a man . . . really anyone . . . had done for her in, well, she didn't know how long. So she'd been sucking on those in small doses as an alternative to drinking anything.

It at least kept her mouth moist and as a bonus, warded off the desire to chew on her tongue.

Hotch watched out of the corner of his eye as Emily resituated herself next to him. As he saw her settle and then decide to slide another inch closer to his side, his eyes crinkled slightly when he suddenly flashed on the night out in Ohio where they kept getting tangled up together in their sleep.

"Are you going to maul me tonight Prentiss?" he asked drily as he felt her hair brushing against his thigh.

Though he was still above the covers, otherwise there were presently zero inches between them.

Emily huffed slightly as she fixed her pillow, "maybe if you play your cards right, sir."

In Hotch's version of the night in Ohio she was the one that was plastered to him and he was the helpless victim. In the ACTUAL version of the story, they had been mutually . . . innocently . . . drawn to one another while they were sleeping.

Okay, yes granted it was his bed and if she'd just dragged her ass out of it and gone back to her own room then her body wouldn't have actually been around to get tangled up with his. But that was a minor quibble and one she always quickly dismissed when Hotch tried to point it out to her.

They'd both slept quite well that night so she knew that his huffing about it was just his way of reconciling that "incident" with his newfound efforts to be more emotionally expressive and physically demonstrative.

Basically, as long as she initiated then he didn't have to consider the reality that he had indeed already . . . horror of horrors . . . loosened up!

And as she lay there with him she started to get her usual sense of calm from his presence. It had been eluding her earlier on the train. Back when her vomiting streaks were running about every twenty minutes.

That was almost twelve hours ago though so apparently . . . dry heaves not withstanding . . . her stomach really was starting to settle down.

And she realized then that with the sense of peace he brought her that she wasn't feeling lonely any longer either. That was the other reason she'd started crying when she'd crawled back into bed.

She was all alone and she'd felt sorry for herself.

Now she didn't . . . she reached over to pat his leg again . . . and that's because he'd decided to stay. He showed her that he cared about her enough to sacrifice his own middle of the night comfort by sitting up with her and watching . . .

Wait . . . her brow wrinkled as she stared at the screen . . . okay, that's weird.

"Hotch," she murmured.

"What's the matter?" Hotch leaned forward slightly to see her face, "are you going to get sick again?"

He had decided that if she still couldn't keep anything down by morning that they were stopping at the emergency room before they attempted to head home. It was unlikely that she had anything serious, but they could check her over and give her some fluids to keep her minor ailment from becoming a major one.

"No," she flicked her eyes up to see him two inches away, "I was just wondering why we're watching Telemundo. How do you know what's happening in the movie?"

Though she'd known that they were watching Chuck Norris in Spanish for a few minutes now, she hadn't thought much about it because her brain was automatically translating the dialogue on the screen. But it had just occurred to her that Hotch didn't speak Spanish and there were no subtitles.

So how the hell was he following along?

His eyebrow quirked up in amusement, "Prentiss, it's a Chuck Norris movie. Do you honestly think that the dialogue is adding anything to the plot of the film?"

He sat back with a huff, "I could probably watch this in ancient Aramaic and still follow along."

Emily started to chuckle, "I didn't know Chuck was conversant in the dead language of the Lord our Savior."

Though she was exhausted and her stomach was aching, Hotch's dry little comments could still make her laugh.

Hotch's lips twitched slightly as he stared at the screen, "well you know Chuck is a man of many mysteries Prentiss. Who's to say what other skills he's mastered besides the kung fu grip?"

Hearing her resulting snort, a little smile touched Hotch's lips. Then he had to clamp down hard to keep that little smile from becoming a full blown grin as Emily decided to begin helpfully "translating" the Spanish dialogue back into English for him.

Her voice was hoarse and the overprotective part of him wanted to tell her to rest, but he figured this was probably helping her get her mind off the physical discomfort so he kept his well intentioned nagging to himself.

Really he was just incredibly relieved that she'd stopped crying.

Hell, he was so relieved about the tears passing that if she'd like to sit up with him now and practice her juggling skills he'd go get her some grapefruits out of the B&B kitchen! And actually her commentary was quite amusing.

Certainly a hell of a lot more entertaining than what he knew to be the ACTUAL dialogue of the film.

Still though, he was doing pretty well at keeping it together until Chuck ran into the department store . . . and that's when she broke him.

"Prentiss," Hotch snorted and then started to laugh, "my Spanish is non-existent but I'm still quite sure that Chuck is not asking the saleswoman if they sell stiletto pumps in a size thirteen."

"Hey," she poked him weakly in the thigh, "who's the bilingual one here?"

Trying to stifle his amusement, he schooled his features before shifting his gaze down to hers. Of course when she winked at him all efforts at stiflement were lost and he couldn't help one of the dimples sliding out in return. She gave him a sleepy smile before turning back to the television.

The special translations went on for a couple more scenes but then she began to fade in and out. And when Hotch looked down at her a few minutes later he saw that her eyes were starting to fall shut.

His lip quirked up . . . looks like the Bilingual One was going down for the count. But that was what he'd been hoping would happen. That as soon as she had some distraction from her sickness that she'd stop feeling so stressed and she'd be able to get some rest.

He leaned down to fix the covers around her shoulders and to feel her forehead again.

Cool . . . he pulled his hand back . . . but not clammy like it had been earlier in the night. And barring the unfortunate mention of dry heaves, he was pretty sure that she hadn't thrown up since ten thirty, so he was hoping that this bug was starting to pass out of her system.

For a moment he stared down at her knowing full well that he should get up and go back to his own bed.

But he figured he'd stay a little longer, just in case she woke up again and needed something.

Like a Gatorade ice cube or a helping hand to the bathroom.

Yeah . . . he slipped a little further down the headboard so he could prop himself up on a pillow . . . he'd just stay until the movie was over.

/*/*/*/*/

Hotch woke up with Emily's hair in his mouth.

After he'd spit it out he realized that somehow . . . he wasn't quite sure of the mechanics given he'd very clearly been on TOP of the bedspread when he passed out . . . he'd still ended up wrapping his body around hers.

Damn it.

Mauling had commenced right on schedule except HE was the one playing the part of the mauler. If she woke up and found him like this he was NEVER going to hear the end of it! Not after all the crap he gave her last time. So he tried to disentangle himself but then he realized that Emily was clutching his hand where it was wrapped around her stomach.

He rolled his eyes . . . how did he regularly get himself into these situations with her?

With a huff and a slight grimace, he tried to pull his hand away without waking her. Of course that was a no go . . . as soon as his hand slipped back a quarter inch she started to murmur in her sleep and he froze.

The last thing he wanted to do was wake her up again. He knew that she was exhausted, and if she was going to be well enough to go anywhere tomorrow then she needed to rest up and get her strength back. If he woke her up again now . . . and then just left her alone . . . she might be up for the rest of the night.

That was not a solution to his predicament.

For a few minutes he simply stared at the cheap plastic window blinds across the room. There wasn't even a hint of daylight peaking through them so he knew it wasn't anywhere near close to dawn.

Finally he just huffed out a dramatic sigh and gave in to his fate . . . they were sleeping together whether he liked it or not. So rather than trying to inch away from here . . . it just wasn't happening anyway . . . he pulled her closer and rested his chin on her shoulder.

That at least kept the hair out of his mouth.

Just as he was about to fall back to sleep again he heard her murmur beside him.

"Thank God, I thought you'd never stop fidgeting."

She'd woken up the moment he tried to pull his hand away. And she'd known he was trying to get up but she'd decided to keep him right where he was. She'd been sleeping quite comfortably with him wrapped around her as a (bio) electric blanket.

Hotch's eyes popped open . . . son of a bitch! Then he realized how well he'd been played and his lips started to twitch. With a huff he pulled her closer, murmuring against her shoulder, "this one's going down on you. And Prentiss, if you throw up on me tonight you're going to owe me coffee for a month."

Coffee had become their new standard of currency in all situations.

Still with her eyes shut, Emily's lip quirked up as she patted his arm and mumbled back.

"Understood. Now shut up and go back to sleep sir."

Hotch rolled his eyes as he leaned behind him to grab the remote and turn off the television.

As Emily heard the dulcet Spanish tones disappear she mumbled sleepily, "but I like The Goonies." And a second later she heard Hotch whisper in her ear.

"Just shut up and go to sleep Prentiss."

She smiled.


A/N 2: Again, a perfectly good stopping point to walk away from this 'day in the life' but who knows? I might follow the trip home through Amish country. Putting a pin in it for now. If nothing else I'm kind of running out of titles to work in the Pod People :) If anyone can suggest a good one maybe I can whip up a story to go with it.

These little offshoots are fun now because I can pull in threads from chapters of Girl both before and after this story's placement so it kind of fleshes everything out. And I realized that I never did address Hotch having any blowing up nightmares from NY (which he must have had) so that was a good excuse to drag him out of bed.

This was not at all planned, I suddenly got this idea like 48 hours ago and it was a nice little distraction from the crappy news yesterdays. So I'll try to get back to what I was working on before and hopefully get something else up this weekend.

And don't forget, if you haven't signed the petition yet please go slap your Jane/John Hancock on it! It can't hurt, and it could quite possibly help. I don't see Joe Mantegna and the other cast members (who clearly know a lot more about how these things work than we do) pushing the petition on their twitter pages if they didn't think there was a chance that it might be taken seriously.